February 3, 2020

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UTC Hires Energy, Telecom Hill Staff Leader Rardin as Director of Government Affairs, Communications

Aiming to provide more education and awareness around utility information and communications technology policy needs, UTC has hired David Rardin as its Director of Government Affairs and Communications.

Mr. Rardin comes to UTC from Capitol Hill, where he worked for more than eight years for Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Most recently, Mr. Rardin served as Rep. Johnson’s Legislative Director, where he focused on the energy and telecommunications policies under the Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction.

“We are fortunate to find someone of David’s caliber for this position,” said UTC Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs Sharla Artz. “David is uniquely qualified to assist UTC and our members as we face dynamic changes in both the energy and telecommunications industries. He understands how telecommunications policies can impact, positively and negatively, the energy and water sectors. David will serve our members well.”

As Legislative Director for Rep. Johnson, Mr. Rardin was responsible for much of the Congressman’s work on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Throughout his eight and a half years on Capitol Hill, Mr. Rardin has worked with various stakeholders to improve and advance policies within the Committee’s jurisdiction, which include U.S energy, environment, and telecommunication polices. These efforts have led to the introduction and passage of multiples pieces of bipartisan legislation, some of which have been signed into law.

In his new position, Mr. Rardin will be responsible for broadening the understanding of the critical importance of utilities’ private communications networks to grid reliability. Given his experience in Congress, where he staffed Rep. Johnson on both energy and telecommunications issues, Mr. Rardin will also focus on the increasing interdependencies between the two sectors, including storm response, broadband deployment, and infrastructure. His primary responsibility will be representing UTC before members of Congress and their staff, though he will also work on stakeholder development in other advocacy areas as well.

“UTC sits at the nexus between the utility and telecommunications industries,” Mr. Rardin said. “Utilities are perhaps the most critical industry in our nation—they literally power our economy and our increasingly digital lifestyles. And in many ways, utilities empower the deployment of broadband connectivity to all parts of the U.S. I look forward to working with Members of Congress and their staff on these critical issues.”

Mr. Rardin starts at UTC on Feb. 3. He is a native of Stow, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Minor in Spanish in June 2011.

UTC ‘Applauds’ New Federal Grant Program to Expand Broadband

UTC applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) action last week to approve a $20.4 billion program to fund the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural America.

The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) will be a two-phase reverse auction mechanism. Through the program, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, helping connect millions more American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.

Final text of the order was not available at press time (Thursday, Jan. 30).

The RDOF program will help utilities interested in providing broadband services in their communities by appropriately weighing their projects, which typically can offer higher speeds, against those of other providers, UTC Vice President and General Counsel Brett Kilbourne said.

“The Utilities Technology Council applauds the Federal Communications Commission for adopting the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which will help to promote the deployment of robust, reliable and resilient broadband networks,” Mr. Kilbourne said. “Utilities empower broadband deployment, and programs like the RDOF will help utilities and others offset the high cost of bringing internet services in unserved areas. The RDOF program will help ensure that Americans in these areas have access to broadband services that are reasonably comparable to services available in urban areas of the country. UTC supports the Commission’s decision to award funding to projects that will provide faster speeds and lower latency once the bidding has reached the clearing round stage of the auction. This will invest federal funding wisely in future-proof projects capable of meeting increasing consumer expectations on a cost-effective basis. Additionally, this will also avoid investments in technologies that become obsolete and must be replaced.

“Utilities of all shapes and sizes empower broadband deployment. In many cases, utilities deploy gigabit networks and offer services at prices that are less than $100/month. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a critical piece in ensuring that all Americans have access to reliable and fast broadband services.”

According to the FCC, the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will begin later this year and target census blocks that are wholly unserved with fixed broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. This phase would make available up to $16 billion to census blocks where existing data shows there is no such service available whatsoever. Funds will be allocated through a multi-round reverse auction like that used in 2018’s Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. FCC staff’s preliminary estimate is that about six million rural homes and businesses are located in areas initially eligible for bidding in the Phase I auction.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction will prioritize networks with higher speeds, greater usage allowances, and lower latency. To support the deployment of sustainable networks in this auction, the auction will prioritize bidders committing to provide fast service with low latency, the FCC said. This will encourage the deployment of networks that will meet with needs of tomorrow as well as today. Bidders must also commit to provide a minimum speed more than double than was required in the CAF Phase II auction.

Phase II of the program will make available at least $4.4 billion to target partially served areas, census blocks where some locations lack access to 25/3 Mbps broadband. Using the granular, precise broadband mapping data being developed in the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection, along with census blocks unawarded in the Phase I auction, according to the FCC.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Join UTC at IWCE for a Discount!

UTC is exhibiting and moderating technical sessions at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE), held in Las Vegas from March 30 through April 2, with exhibit hall hours on April 1 and 2.

Visit our coordination and technical staff in booth number 959 on the exhibit floor.

For any core UTC members planning on attending but not yet registered, IWCE is offering a 20% discount for all UTC members, and a 10% discount on pre-conference education sessions.

Contact Klaus.bender@utc.org for more details.

House Democrats Propose Infrastructure Package with Broadband, Grid Modernization Programs

House lawmakers last week unveiled the outlines of an infrastructure package that would invest $86 billion in broadband deployment and $34.3 billion in clean energy and grid modernization initiatives over a five-year period.

Democrat leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released their proposal on Jan. 29. At this point, the package is not a formal legislative proposal, nor is there, according to media reports, a plan for how these programs would be funded.

According to documents released by the House leaders, the infrastructure package envisions investing $86 billion to bring broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

Regarding clean energy, the proposal would invest $34.3 billion in the following:

  • Electric grid modernization to accommodate more renewable energy and to make the grid more secure, resilient and efficient
  • Energy supply infrastructure and expands renewable energy infrastructure in low-income and underserved communities to increase climate resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas pollution across the country
  • Electric-vehicle charging networks to facilitate the transition to zero emissions vehicles from coast to coast

Infrastructure initiatives have been discussed in Congress since President Trump took office in January 2017. To date no major infrastructure programs have been passed into law, and most Washington pundits do not anticipate that changing in the near future.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls